Over the holidays, I was finally able to finish the book, Decision Points, by George W. Bush. Now, I have stated before on this blog in a previous post, my admiration for this president. As well, I have made it clear that right-wing politics is not the root cause of this admiration. I don’t listen to talk radio, and I haven’t seen Fox News in months. I do love studying leaders and their approach at leading.
Bush has become for me a bit of a distant mentor, as I have read many books about him over the years. His background, beliefs, education, and his leadership style have all been fascinating to study. Of all the books I have read on him, this one was my favorite.
I won’t bore you with yet another book review of this book. However, as a leader there are a few questions that I got from this book that I think are worth passing on. These are worth applying immediately as a leader.
Questions every leader should ask himself or his/her employees:
“Do you have what you need to win the war?” – Over and over again during his presidency, Bush would ask his military leaders this question. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a military commander, and how refreshing that must have been to not feel hamstrung by politics, but to have a Commander in Chief who would ask this question.
Here’s where this hit too close to home. Last month, in doing my annual reviews with my staff, one staff person in particular admitted his frustration with me. He had voiced a few different times the weight he was feeling because of lack of support in one particular area. He had communicated it to me in the past. Although I had acted on his comments in the past, I hadn’t done nearly enough. Because of my lack of solving this, it had put undue stress on him as a leader. I am in the process, now, of getting him the support he needs.
This could have been a non-issue if I would have asked him earlier if he had what he needed to win. When his answer was “no”, then I should have immediately stepped in to get him what he needed.
What do the experts have to say about this? – This book does a good job laying out some of the complex decisions that come to the President’s desk. I tried to put myself in his shoes; having to make decisions about war, stem cell research, social security reform, no child left behind, etc. As a leader, he has to be confident listening to people much smarter than he is, weighing in on these various topics. The level of complexity was staggering to read about. However, it impressed me how he brought in experts from different “sides” and listened to them.
As a leader, what are my guys/gals who work right in the “thick” of it saying on various subjects? They know what they are experiencing, and how it actually plays out. What is their opinion on different issues, and I am listening intently to them?
What principle is guiding my decision?
As all presidents do, Bush tackled some very difficult issues. As I read the book, I realized often the choices he had were between bad and worse. If you are a people-pleaser, it would not take you long as president to understand that you will continually disappoint. You, nor I, can make decisions with pleasing people as the goal. That goal is a moving target.
Instead, I should think with principle as my guide. As I mentioned in that previous post, Bush believed freedom was a gift intended for all mankind. That belief shaped his foreign policy.
What are the underlying principles that shape me as a leader? Would people know what they were without telling them?
The book is filled with fascinating details on multiple events in his presidency. However, if you read the book with leadership in mind, I believe these are three questions that shouldn’t be looked over.
Is there someone you study as a leader? If so, who? What have you learned from them?